26 June, Third Sunday after Pentecost

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The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank the Sanctuary Sunday writing group and Sabine Chalmers, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees Co-Ordinator for their thoughts on Sanctuary Sunday, the third Sunday after Pentecost.

Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is for everyone – in any capacity – who is involved in creating and leading worship.

It provides liturgical material that can be used for worship in all settings. Our writers are asked to share their approaches to creating and delivering this material to equip leaders with a greater confidence and ability to reflect on their own worship practice and experience and encourage them to consider how this material might be adapted for their own context.

We would encourage continual reflection on the changing patterns of worship and spiritual practice that are emerging from disruption and how this might help identify pathways towards development and worship renewal.

We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship.

Introduction

This week the scriptural exegeses come from a different perspective than one we may be used to, and challenge us to think differently about our view of the world through the lens of scripture.

Amira Abdulgader Musa, originally from Sudan, has been in Egypt since May 2017. She is the Deputy Director of Operations at St Andrew's United Church of Cairo Refugee Services (StARS).

Gadaet Machar is South Sudanese and arrived in Egypt in 2000 at the age of 10, with his mother and two siblings, and started his education at a refugee school known as African Hope. Gadaet is a Church Council Member at St Andrew's United Church of Cairo and Senior Staff Officer of the operations team at StARS.

Sabine Chalmers, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees Co-Ordinator, spoke to Aimee, Glory and Ronke, who have lived experience of the asylum system in Scotland and are part of the Poverty Truth Community.

Rev Linda Pollock is Minister of Aberluthnott and Laurencekirk and has written the sermon ideas and further scriptural explorations.

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

[Gadaet Machar]

I came to know the Lord JESUS intimately in the year 2011, and that was my greatest U-turn, the beginning of an interesting life for me and a starting point through which God began to show me the genuine things of or the things that do matter in Life.

Looking at this passage I approached it from the following perspectives:

  • Gilgal – The Place of the Beginning
  • Bethel – The Place of the Altar
  • Jericho Where one meets the Holy Spirit
  • Jordan – The Place of Confirmation

I would like to share the perspective from Bethel and Jericho. I perceive my Life as an Altar where the Lord receives praises, adoration and honour, which always challenges me to live a life worthy of the Lord. As we all know, this is sometimes hard to live up to, even though we love to pray, "Oh Lord, help me live a life worthy of Your name".

A few years ago, I felt the Spirit of Lord was asking me – "What are some simple practices that could help you live the life you're always asking my help for?" and that got me thinking a lot and made me realise that in most cases we tend to ask for things that we see as hard and complicated, but which to God are simple and easy to do only if we allow God into the situation.

Our lives can only be Altars if we live in the Fear of God or in respect to God. Revealing and living in the Fruit of the Spirit is essential so that Christ is witnessed, irrespective of what others may say about or throw on us, just as what the Sons of Prophets did to Elisha. When we know the direction of our life and are aware that God is the one leading us, we can easily embrace the external challenges and keep walking till we meet our blessings and the promises of God which await us, and when that happens, those who once said all sort of negative stuff will be amazed, accept and praise God for our life.

The main message for me from this text is about being patient for the promises of God.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 and Galatians 5:1, 13-25

[Sabine Chalmers]

The approach for both these bible passages was to meet with a group of women who have lived experience of the asylum system in Scotland and explore these passages in conversation together. The women talked about what the passages mean to them and how they relate to their experience of seeking refuge. The women involved in the study were Aimee, Glory and Ronke, with support from the Poverty Truth Community. Most striking was their incredible resilience and deep trust and faith in God, regardless of their circumstances.

The vast majority of asylum seekers in the UK are forced into destitution as they have no right to work while they wait for their claim to asylum to be processed. They have no choice over where they live and receive just over £40 a week to survive on.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

Aimee and Glory were immediately able to relate to this Psalm on a deeply personal level. The Psalmist expresses utter despair – they are so distressed that they can't sleep and are too troubled to utter words (v4). The writers appeal to the Lord, their cries for help seem to be unending (vv1-2) and yet they find no comfort. Surrounded by darkness and not being able to see the light, questions about God's faithfulness and love plague them. The writer feels rejected, abandoned, as if God has withdrawn God's love (vv7-9). It is in this context that Aimee and Glory share these words: "I used to think that God has rejected me, I used to think that his love had vanished. I used to ask God: ‘Why am I going through this, why should I go through this? Have I taken a wrong step?' I felt forgotten by God and everyone. But now I have come to realise that God's ways are not our ways."

"Asaph is trying to acknowledge his feelings in his trials and tribulation. I feel this way, but the reality is that God is good and God is faithful."

"I was very angry when I started this journey of seeking sanctuary. I was very, very angry. I was angry because I was focussing on what the Home Office was doing, so I wasn't looking at what others were doing, and I wasn't thinking of God. At that point I realised that I lost my joy, who I was. But gratitude helped me. Seeing what I have, seeing how people were loving."

Verse 10 introduces a change of perspective in the Psalmist's mind. They refocus on who God is, recalling how holy, faithful and mighty God is.

Whilst these three resilient women had been treated as ‘less than human' by the Home Office and people around them, had spent time in detention, and faced severe poverty, their attention swiftly shifted to the second half of the Psalm. They spoke powerfully of their own experiences of going through difficult times and God's word as ‘spirit and truth' changing their perspective.

Aimee noted: "I connect with a lot of refugees and asylum seekers and to most of us, no matter the difficulty, God has been the one to give us strength to carry on. Faith is central to what we have been through. Like Asaph says, I will remember God's goodness. We have been facing challenges but we were reminding ourselves that the reason we are here is because God wanted us to be here. And the same God who brought us here will see us through. God's ways are holy and higher than our ways, even in trials (v13). It wasn't easy, but faith gave us hope. Seeking asylum is a good way to know God because you see God's faithfulness."

In the midst of hardship, Aimee, Glory and Ronke are able to see God's blessing in the midst of it as God moulds them and strengthens their faith and trust in God.

Glory highlights that in the midst of feeling abandoned, feeling that God is not there for you, "we need help to understand that God's timing is the best. Help will come, and it comes at its own time. Can we trust God's timing for helping us? For knowing what we need?"

"Verses 11 and 12 strike me. Although we might feel a certain way, God has never changed. God was faithful in the past and is continuing to be faithful. There is one passage in the bible that says that God delivers us to speak about God's goodness and great deeds. This is how I walk my life. I want to thank God, to recognise His deeds, that He is God, who does everything. Nothing is bigger than God. I want to live to talk about God's goodness and mighty power."

"God's word is spirit and truth. Before, I couldn't appreciate what I have because I was taking everything for granted. Going through the asylum process had made me a better person who appreciates things and who puts God first in everything I do. I understand now that it is all grace, it is all God. We get everything from God. For me to reach this understanding I had to leave my country and come here. If I had stayed in my country, I don't know if I would have understood how everything comes from God. You think I can get this and that, but when you lose everything you have to start from scratch. You don't know anyone apart from God – even to achieve small things, you are dependent on God because you have nothing. Even to meet a single good person, it takes God."

Aimee, Glory and Ronke shared their faith with depth and authenticity. It reminded me of the quote from Corrie Ten Boom: "You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have." All three of them are keen to share the hope they have found in clinging to God in hard situations with others. They were very aware of the fact that we need to remind each other of God's goodness and faithfulness in the hard times.

"Meeting people who are facing challenges should be one of our priorities. It's not all about giving money or giving food, it's the word of God that is food. When you are there to tell this person: "It will be well, be calm, God will answer you, has not rejected you, is there for you", those words mean a lot to people who are undergoing challenges and it gives them hope, it gives them the reassurance that things will be better. It gives them the will to be patient. This is really important. We need the nourishment of God's word and we need people around us to speak it into our lives in the dark days."

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

One of the women's final remarks on Psalm 77 was: "What has been really helpful for me is when people were living out what they were saying. I've met a lot of people in this country who were just blocking me, but I've also met people who were there for me, they were loving and supportive and I could see God in them. We weren't sitting talking about the Bible, but in the way they were acting you could see that the word of God has transformed them and they wanted to give this love back. And this has been very helpful. And now I am ready to go out and share what I have received from them."

This ties in perfectly with this passage in Galatians, which declares the freedom we have in Christ. Whilst the Galatians are free from the law's requirements, they are encouraged to live out the law's essence: loving your neighbour. We are no longer under the slavery of the law so that we can choose to serve one another. It includes a call to live by the Spirit and not the flesh (v16).

Aimee highlights that we can sometimes misunderstand the freedom we have in Christ (v1). "Paul is encouraging us to live in this freedom, but in the verses, he has also given us some guidance – to love and to be a servant. Sometimes you think ‘I am free, so I can do whatever I want'. But Paul is saying you have freedom, but there is also a way to live out this freedom: love our God in everything you do. You are not free to walk by your flesh. You are free to walk by the Spirit, according to the word of God."

Referring to the command in v14, the women shared their experiences on the love received from neighbours after seeking refuge here. And their reflections were most poignant – when is it easy to show love, when do we expect it, when do we take it for granted? Aimee adds: "When you are in your country you take love for granted because you think these are my people. But when you leave your country and you come into another country, this is where you understand what love means. Here I had no connection with anyone but I've seen this love, I have seen this support. People are there for you, they listen to you, they accept you with your weakness, I wasn't judged. I come with my story and people trust you – that is how I experienced love. When the Home Office tells you that you are a liar, and sees you as someone else, you lose your confidence but then you find other people who trust you, treat you with respect. They see you as you are.

Ronke added: "We came from Africa and our way of life, our tradition, and our culture are different. People look at us and see a different skin colour, everything is different. But when we came here at least we are able to find some, not all, that really accept us, who are ready to relate to us and listen to us. This gives us courage and inner peace. They love us and accept us, and even if we face challenges it gives us confidence to move on. It is really good that we have people in our lives who show us that love. Not only saying it, but showing it."

What does it look like to extend love to others in our communities (v14)? Especially those who might feel isolated and marginalised by institutions and the hostile asylum system? Is inherent trust, practical love, and genuine acceptance part of our response?

When asking Aimee, Glory and Ronke what spoke to them from verses 16-21 in the passage and how it related to their own experience, one might have expected them to recall situations when people have shown hatred and displayed these acts of the flesh towards them. The way we know people who are in the asylum system are often treated, it probably wouldn't have surprised us at all. And yet, they did the exact opposite.

Reflecting on these verses they simply started talking about the times where selfishness, greed or hatred had entered their own lives. From a human perspective they had all the right to complain, to first point the finger and identify the sin in other people's lives. One young woman in the asylum system told me that her life sometimes felt like she was in a deep dark pit. Not receiving a warm welcome, sympathy and a comfy bed where one can heal from their wounds of trauma, but instead being treated less than human. And I think here is the beauty and power of the gospel and the spirit living within us. Despite people's circumstances the Spirit is at work, weeding out discontent and frustration and enabling people to live out the fruit of the Spirit. These women were such a testimony as they humbly apply this passage to their own lives first and let the Holy Spirit help them.

One of the women said: "In terms of hatred, jealously, envy, the fruit of the flesh – coming here has been a blessing. Why? Because these are the things I didn't know when I was back home. I didn't know jealously, hatred or envy. But when I came here, the way the Home Office was treating me, and the way other people were looking at me, treating me like less than a human, I started to be angry, I started to envy other people, I wanted to be like them, I wanted to have this and that. I just had £30 to live on a week. It started creating bad emotions in me that I didn't know before, and yet I was a Christian. I was experiencing all these negative feelings although by nature I am a very happy person. It wasn't a good feeling. This made me stop and ask myself: The person I am seeing now, is not the person I am, and I needed to find my way back. I wanted to come back to the person who displays the fruit of the spirit. And I saw other people showing the love that I was lacking. So, I thought: Why not accept this love and give back this love?"

The women reflected on all of our need for the Spirit to lay off the works of the flesh in our own lives and display the fruit of the Spirit. "Without the Holy Spirit we can't live a life that pleases God. Doing the work of the flesh, is in our endemic nature. So, we need the Spirit of God. Some people don't want to do it [works of the flesh], but because of our nature we find ourselves doing these things. But by allowing the Holy Spirit help us in our lives, then you will be able to do the opposite. How can we get that? By reading the word of God, meditating on the word of God and trying to live the life that pleased God. That way we will show love, joy, endurance."

At the same time, Aimee and Ronke were sharing about their call to love those who do make life difficult for them. "With love you can help change people. What people don't have, they cannot give. It's our duty to show love. It requires patience. The way some people treat me, it makes me think I am not even a human being, but at the same time we remember the people that show us love. And we must show the same love to others, even if they don't love us".

How do you deal with works of the flesh in your life and what role does the Holy Spirit have? How do you encounter people who show you anger or hostility? How can we encourage each other to show the fruit of the Spirit?

Luke 9:51-62

[Amira Abdulgader]

What comes to your mind when someone tells you follow the Lord? How does it sound? How do you want to follow Jesus? When the time of His cross had come or His time on earth had come to an end, Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and had to pass through the village of Samaritans. But He was not accepted, because He was heading to Jerusalem (vv51-52). Many of us might not be accepted because we are heading towards Jesus, but Jesus said the world will not accept you because it did not accept Him. As long as we are following and heading towards Jesus, the world will not accept us. But will you stop there because it did not accept you, or will you continue as Jesus continued to Jerusalem?

Jesus' disciples asked Him to bring fire from heaven to burn the people of the Samaritan village because they refused to accept Him, but Jesus replied to them: "don't you know the Spirit in you?" referring to the Holy Spirit which is a Spirit of peace. The Lord Has come to save people's lives and not to destroy them. This is teaching us that when our enemies do us wrong, we cannot do the same against them. The Spirit of the Lord teaches us peace. We cannot take an eye for an eye. We, the followers of Jesus, have to be full of love, care and peace to others and especially to our enemies – those who do us wrong.

A certain man asked to follow Jesus but he did not know the reality of following Jesus (vv57-61). He did not know that he has to carry his cross and follow Him every day. It's not about going to the church every week but it's about doing the will of God: each must carry his cross – we must show peace, love and compassion to others.

Jesus asked two people to follow Him, but they wanted to do other things first. They were very busy with other stuff and they were not ready yet to follow Jesus. This teaches us that we have to make a decision whether to follow Jesus or do other stuff.

A lot of us are busy with other stuff and have not given our heart, body, mind, family and even wealth to Jesus yet. We cannot serve two masters. It's either Jesus or other stuff. We have to submit to the Lord. The Lord doesn't accept us when we are divided between God and the world. Jesus said to the last person (v62) "No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God". The Lord wants us to do greater things; winning souls to the Lord. Are you doing this? Are you winning souls to the Lord? Think about it and start acting on it.

Sermon ideas

[Rev Linda Pollock]

In all of our readings we glimpse that for Followers of Christ, being one with God, living in God's blessing, failing and forgetting, being reminded by each other and by God's Spirit of God's character, over and over again, is our sanctuary. St Augustine said that we will never find our home – or our place of sanctuary? – until we find our home in God. These readings are lovely opportunities to explore the theme of sanctuary in God. Each one offers the common thread of being part of the community of God always and regardless … a place to begin?

2:Kings:2:1-2, 6-14: Elijah and Elisha

There are several potential sermon routes to choose from in this reading. The obvious one is Elijah's dramatic disappearance into heaven on chariots of fire. The context of this passage reveals nothing in terms of Elisha or the reader being prepared for Elijah's death. Perhaps an exploration of sudden death, and the grief expressed by Elisha could be explored, reminding folk that Elijah is going home to God, his mission is complete. If you choose this path you may wish to invite the congregation to ponder their own end of life preparations.

  • Have they spoken with loved ones regarding their funeral?
  • Have they decided how to distribute their belongings and other forms of wealth?
  • Do they need to reconcile with a family member or friend before they go home to God? Have they asked Elijah's question of their loved ones? "‘Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.' " (v9)

Another path you may wish to follow is Elisha's response to Elijah's request, asking what he might do for him before he was carried off to heaven. Elisha's response was to ask for the Deuteronomic inheritance of the oldest son – a double portion (Deut:21:15-17). He sees himself as the firstborn son of Elijah, "Father, father" – Elisha is asking for a double portion of Elijah's ministry as the Prophet of God (vv9-12). Having accompanied Elijah for some time, he is aware of what it means to be God's Prophet in Israel… so, you might wish to reflect on his confidence in God to enable him to serve, to note that when we serve God we need to learn and train as a disciple – specific training may be needed – but we are all called to commune with God in prayer. Being equipped regardless of our offering of service is essential.

You could spend a little time looking at the authority conveyed by the receipt of Elijah's mantle and the response of the 50 Prophets offering themselves as his co-workers.

A key point (for me) of this text is what Elijah left behind.

This time of denominational reform – I prefer that word to ‘change', it's our heritage after all – is necessary because of what we have inherited, because of what we have chosen to hold onto… the good and the not so good! As we make our reforms nationally and locally, we must ask ourselves what is it that we are leaving behind for the next generation. Will they need to make reforms because of our poor choices? In all the reforms we are planning are we offering a Church that is reformed because of our deep connection with the Divine, as opposed to a ‘corporate world' model, or a well organised administration, or a list of ten points that will guarantee ‘success'? You might ask if our legacy will create a culture of deep connection with the Divine, a culture of courage, a culture of community that reflects the God we claim to serve, the same God Elijah and Elisha served.

Finally, it is very important to notice in this reading that when Elijah is sent to different places and he tells Elisha to wait behind, Elisha refuses. Nobody is in the Kingdom of God alone… nobody is called to serve and follow Christ Jesus alone.

Psalm:77:1-2, 11-20. "God's mighty deeds recalled"

This song is one we have all sung! This is an opportunity to assure the people that everybody has been in the place of despair, everybody has at some point asked God if God is deaf!

You could explore the joy (yes, joy) of lamenting, the necessity of lamenting, being completely honest with God, which is the starting point for prayer.

Giving people permission to ask hard questions of God, the Bible, the Body of Christ, is a gift, and this may be a good time to create a safe space for folks to drop the façade they may think they must hide behind, lest others think they are not really committed to Christ Jesus.

The Psalmist continues lamenting, then in verse 11 realises that the key to living through a difficult season is to remember the character of God. You could remind the congregation of the stories from scripture (including Elijah and Elisha) when God's steadfast love and faithfulness prevailed. There are many people in the Bible who have struggled and lamented – and for a significant length of time. Point them to Jesus and the road to Jerusalem, which was the road of suffering before the celebration of resurrection.

Remind them too that in the weary place, the place of despair where we long for the misery to end, it is there we are aware of our vulnerability and, like the great heroes and sheroes of our Faith, it is in this place, this place of waiting, this liminal space, that God can do God's best work in and through us. As the Psalmist has advised, call to mind God's people of old and how God came close to them in ways they could never have imagined, delivering them from their chaos and heartache.

This is another reminder that we are never alone; we are in the community of God even when we feel isolated, even when others around us are oblivious to our sadness and pain. This could be an opportunity to invite the people to liberation from false living to hope-filled living.

Galatians:5:1, 13-25. "The nature of Christian freedom"

There are two lists that jump out from this lectionary passage, and it would be easy to focus on them as little balance sheets that help us tote up how spiritual we are or are not. Avoid that – binary thinking in this context is not helpful and our subjectivity is unreliable.

Instead, you might wish to focus on what it means to be free in Christ. Refugees and asylum seekers grace us with their presence and wisdom in church today. This might be an opportunity for one or more of them to tell their story and why they are seeking asylum here in Scotland. Also, invite them to share something of their story of walking with God. I have never been disappointed when I have invited one of our brothers and sisters to speak of God's involvement in their lives.

You may not have first-hand experience of the joy and pain of having refugees in your congregation so, it would be important to speak about our freedom to gather, to speak out, to offer services and to proclaim our love of God in our country. You could help folk discover organisations such as Open Doors and CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) and offer images and statistics of persecution around the world… remember that people of other faith traditions are persecuted too!

Another idea is to speak about the freedom afforded us in Christ Jesus. The gift He has given us to be wholly and fully ourselves without fear of never being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, tall enough, slim enough etc… The gift of freedom in Christ invites us to refuse to conform to the usual societal norms and, indeed, ‘church norms,' and to celebrate our life in Christ.

As in the previous passages, the sense of being part of a community is laid out again. Verse 14: "For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'" Explore the idea of serving one another in our church and in the wider community, regardless of whether the latter produces more bodies in the Sunday Service. On this special day, you could remind the congregation that our neighbours are refugees and asylum seekers too.

Luke:9:51-62 "The cost of following Jesus"

This is a hard reading to hear, especially at the moment, when we are reminded of lockdowns and how precious our families and friends are.

A possible way to go with this passage is to remind folks that following Jesus is hard. The text invites us to be shocked at His words – they sound harsh – but He is exaggerating the point to let His chosen 12 know that when they follow Him it will not be easy… they cannot look back otherwise they'll not see what is ahead. You might take this opportunity to have the congregation look forward and dream how they want the church community to be five, 10, 20 years from now.

When Jesus sets His face to Jerusalem, He is resolute. He knows it is the road of suffering and He refuses to be distracted. I think you could explore what it means to be a follower of Jesus when life is not panning out the way you had hoped. Disappointment breeds despair and the Psalm of today combines well with this story. We are fortunate to have the stories of the disciples – some of whom returned to their fishing boats after Jesus was crucified – they went back to their previous lives, they turned around as if they were ploughing the field. You could remind the people that the disciples were in the space of uncertainty, a fearful place, failing to remember the words Jesus spoke many times in their presence that He would be killed and after three days be raised. You could also remind them that when Jesus appeared before them, He didn't condemn them for abandoning Him or for going back to their old lives. He blessed them and He restored them, and they went forward into all the world doing things they never imagined or expected.

Asylum seekers and refugees know the problems of continuing to go forward until they reach a safe place, a place of sanctuary. It would be interesting to hear their voices about not looking back once they started out. How did they cope with leaving loved ones behind? Do they regret leaving their homes and countries for sanctuary in the UK… do they feel they are in a place of sanctuary yet? How will their journey help them to move forward and how might we help create sanctuary for and with them?

Prayers

Below is a prayer from an asylum seeker in Scotland. For more prayers for this week on the theme of Sanctuary Sunday and refugees, see pages 36-45 of the "God With Us" resource online.

I pray that the Home Office will make the asylum process easy and faster. Also not allow the establishment of a two-tier refugee system to be passed into law.

I pray that the Home Office should not make life increasingly difficult for asylum seekers and the majority of refugees. Also, we should not be treated differently, because of the colour of our skin, our route of entry, or our religion. Also, reduce their fee, which is over £2,000 per head. Amen

Further prayers and stories will shared on the Church's social media platforms in the run-up to Sanctuary Sunday (17-26 June).

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on the Songs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

  • CH4 166 – "Lord of all hopefulness"
  • CH4 168 – "God weeps at love withheld"
  • CH4 195 – "Here to the house of God we come" (alternative tunes: Abingdon, Melita)
  • CH4 198 – "Let us build a house where love can dwell"
  • CH4 250 – "Sent by the Lord am I"
  • CH4 251 – "I, the Lord of sea and sky"
  • CH4 253 – "Inspired by love and anger"
  • CH4 258 – "When the hungry who have nothing share with strangers"
  • CH4 265 – "Pray for a world where every child"
  • CH4 291 – "When out of poverty is born" (Christmas Carol)
  • CH4 360 – "Jesus Christ is waiting"
  • CH4 362 – "Heaven shall not wait"
  • CH4 465 – "Be thou my vision"
  • CH4 543 – "Longing for light, we wait in darkness"
  • CH4 544 – "When I needed a neighbour were you there"
  • CH4 566 – "When I receive the peace of Christ"
  • CH4 624 – "In Christ there is no east or west"
  • CH4 694 – "Brother, sister let me serve you"
  • CH4 706 – "For the healing of the nations" (alternative tunes: Westminster Abbey, Cwm Rhondda)
  • Further hymns, songs and chants can be found on the CTBI website:
  • The Songs2Serve website offers intercultural songs of worship in a multitude of languages, with lyrics and translations into English.
  • Ugandan song performed by Amira and Lee. When they sang it they remarked about how two people from Sudan and South Sudan were singing a Ugandan worship song (translated) in our church.
  • "God With Us" – pages 46-50

Reflecting on our worship practice

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the way we worship has changed and we need to reflect on the changing or newly established patterns that emerged and continue to emerge as a result of the disruption.

We can facilitate worship for all by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technologies in ways that suit our contexts. This is not an exhaustive list, but some things we could consider are:

  • Framing various parts of the worship service in accessible language to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each part. This is essential for creating worship for all (intergenerational worship) that reflects your community of faith.
  • Holding spaces for reflection and encouraging prayer to be articulated in verbal and non-verbal ways, individually and in online breakout rooms
  • In online formats the effective use of the chat function and microphone settings encourages active participation in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • While singing in our congregations is still restricted, we can worship corporately by using antiphonal psalm readings, creeds and participative prayers
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship encourages the use of imagination in place of sung or spoken words
  • Use of silence, sensory and kinaesthetic practices allow for experience and expression beyond regular audio and visual mediums.

The following questions might help you develop a habit of reflecting on how we create and deliver content and its effectiveness and impact, and then applying what we learn to develop our practice.

  • How inclusive was the worship?
    Could the worship delivery and content be described as worship for all/ intergenerational? Was it sensitive to different "Spiritual Styles"?
  • How was the balance between passive and active participation?
  • How were people empowered to connect with or encounter God?
    What helped this? What hindered this?
  • How cohesive was the worship?
    Did it function well as a whole?
    How effective was each of the individual elements in fulfilling its purpose?
  • How balanced was the worship?
    What themes/topics/doctrines/areas of Christian life were included?
  • How did the worship connect with your context/contemporary issues?
    Was it relevant in the everyday lives of those attending and in the wider parish/ community?
    How well did the worship connect with local and national issues?
    How well did the worship connect with world events/issues?
  • What have I learned that can help me next time I plan and deliver worship?

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in our online hymnary.

You can find an introduction to spiritual styles in our worship resources section

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.